Anne Rudin, the first woman to be elected Sacramento mayor, died last Thursday from complications of pneumonia, her family said. She was 97.
“Sacramento has lost a champion of the people and trailblazer for women and girls across our region,” Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D–Sacramento) said in a statement Sunday. “Her impact will be forever felt in our great city and her legacy will continue to inspire and guide us forward.”
The eldest of three children, Rudin, an Italian-American, earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Temple University, where she went on to teach in the school of nursing.
Rudin moved to Sacramento in the late 1950s, and was first elected to Sacramento City Council in 1971, the first woman elected in more than two decades. She then served as the city’s first elected female mayor from 1983 to 1993. Belle Cooledge was Sacramento’s first female mayor in 1948, but she was appointed by City Council — not elected. Cooledge did not win reelection.
“The tiny but mighty shoulders of Mayor Anne Rudin have held up many,” Councilmember Angelique Ashby tweeted. “First of 2 women elected Mayor and 1 of only 16 Councilwomen ever to serve our city. In the 50 years since she won her council seat, only 13 women have followed, including me. She showed us the way.”
During her two terms as mayor, Rudin wrote in her autobiographical notes, she “did not hesitate to tackle issues that were controversial.”
She worked to get a local ordinance banning the sale and possession of assault weapons in Sacramento. Rudin said it wasn’t just for reasons of public safety — she “felt a moral obligation” to support Stockton’s mayor after the 1989 mass shooting at Cleveland Elementary School.
“Banning guns in one city would be useless if they were easy to get in neighboring cities,” she wrote in her notes. “This was a useless though well-intentioned gesture, perhaps even a bit naive, but I wanted to demonstrate that taking a position on gun control did not lose elections.”
The ordinance was later preempted in 1994, when the California Legislature enacted a similar ban statewide.
While in city government, Rudin also dedicated her attention to gay rights, and in 1992 enacted a domestic partners ordinance.
In an interview for “Legends of Courage”, a Sacramento-based LGBTQ oral history and documentary film series project, she said that she felt everyone should have the ability to establish a partnership, whether in a formal marriage situation or not.
“Give rights to everybody,” the former mayor said. “The same rights I had, I felt that other people should have too.”
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg commemorated Rudin’s commitment to fighting for gay rights.
“She was among the first to recognize that LGBTQ rights are core civil rights,” he tweeted. “She was decent, tough and always elevated the best of Sacramento’s values.”
Rudin was heavily involved in the Sacramento community before and after her time in city government. She served as the president of both the Sacramento and statewide League of Women Voters. At one point, she said in a 2012 interview with the Sacramento News & Review, she sat on 14 different boards.
But her “most important accomplishment,” she wrote in her notes, was raising with her husband “four children who have social consciences” and “have been of help to me, to each other and to the community.”
Councilmember Rick Jennings said it was that perspective that he admired most about Rudin.
“I learned from her how to serve the constituents of Sacramento as a public servant while not neglecting my own family, and I will always be thankful to her,” he tweeted.
Her husband, Edward Rudin, was a psychiatrist and professor at UC Davis Medical School. He died in 2003.
Rudin is survived by her four children, Jay Rudin, Carol White, Barbara Rudin and Nancy Robinson, along with several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.